For the United States military, drug use – and misuse – is no laughing matter, and it is the primordial goal of the Department of Defense to stop troops from abusing prescription drugs through its new drug testing policy.
A Navy Times feature urge Sailors to be conscious about certain gray areas in the policy – especially that regarding having a doctor’s prescription. While that piece of paper is important and may get you out of trouble, having a prescription alone is not enough.
A fleetwide message (NAVADMIN 130/12) shared the addition of benzodiazepines and hydrocodones to the list of substances screened in urinalysis tests. Since these drugs are essentially legal unless misused, a Sailor who tests positive but has a valid prescription for these drugs in their medical records will not be subject to disciplinary action.
The feature focused on the word “valid,” clarifying that Sailors should follow the prescription to the letter. The Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) advises Sailors who are unsure about their prescription to consult their primary care manager before taking the pills.
BUMED spokeswoman Shoshana Pilip-Florea said: “A service member cannot be subjected to discipline for use of a controlled prescription medication if taken in accordance with the prescriber’s instructions and intended treatment plan.”
One will only get into trouble if, for instance, a Sailor who was prescribed with Vicodin “as needed” for back pain, decides to take them again when his or her back starts acting up again a few years later; or if a Sailor self-medicates and decides to take pills prescribed for back pain to treat other symptoms, such as neck pain.
Retired Marine colonel and JAG officer Bruce White said: “If you take drugs outside prescription, that is abuse of drugs, technically.”